Dimmy Karras 

Red Sox-Marlins

I promise not to rant excessively about the Red Sox on this site, but I must have a few words on this weekend. So the Red Sox destroy Florida Friday night, Marlins manager complains they run up the score, the Red Sox take it easier on them when they go up 9-2 the following night, and Florida comes back to win 10-9. These "unwritten rules" of baseball are a load of crap. I agree with what Sox owner John Henry (former Marlins owner) said in the Globe today: the team should continue trying to score runs no matter what. People paid lots of money to go to the game Friday, and the team owes them a full effort to get to 30 runs. Otherwise they may as well put a sign on the scoreboard that says, "You may as well go home now, we're not trying to score any more."

Boston NBA Summer League Tix

Tickets for the Reebok Pro Summer League, held July 14-20 at UMass-Boston, go on sale Thursday. Check here for the schedule, and ticket purchase info at bottom, which says:

"Tickets will be made available to the general public on Thursday, June 26 on the Boston Celtics website (www.celtics.com), at the FleetCenter box office, or by calling 1-800-4NBA-TIX. Capacity for the Clark Athletic Center Gymnasium is 2,500. Therefore, there will be a four-ticket limit per person, for all evening sessions on the first day of sale."

LeBron James is expected to be in Boston on the Cavs' team, so I expect tickets to go fast.

Heavyweight Rematch

ESPN reports that Klitschko is already trying to get a rematch with Lewis, but won't be able to fight until the end of the year most likely. I though the fight was one of the most exciting I've seen and the rematch should definitely happen. It's too bad that awful cut stopped the fight, depriving fans a proper ending and now possibly pushing back the timetable for Lewis-Klitschko II. I do agree, however, with the doctor's decision to stop the fight. Klitschko had a chance to get his knockout after the cut opened and he had to know his time in the ring was limited. The gash was as bad as I've ever seen and a stoppage was appropriate.

Affirmative Action: The Court Got It Right

I agree with both affirmative action decisions handed down by the Supreme Court yesterday, permitting the University of Michigan Law School's program while invalidating the less-individualized point system of the undergraduate college. Lots of people seem to be bashing the Court for making this too confusing. Some claim the opinions are inconsistent with one another. Those critics are wrong.

Any racial classification, such as an affirmative action program, is subject to equal protection review by the courts under "strict scrutiny." To pass constitutional muster, the program must serve a "compelling interest" of the state and be "narrowly tailored" to meet that objective. One could argue that this scheme for evaluation, developed over the years in several cases, is not so great, but that would be a book that I'm not qualified to write. For a good overview of the cases and issues in it, I suggest the NY Review of Books article from May 15 by the eminent legal theorist Ronald Dworkin.

In the Law School case (Grutter v. Bollinger), Sandra Day O'Connor, writing for the five-justice majority, holds that the benefits from diversity in a university class rise to the level of a "compelling interest." This is a subjective call, and many conservatives detest the logic behind it, but their claims that there is no evidence of benefits from diversity is incorrect. In fact there is plenty that his been written and said in defense of diversity, more eloquent than anything I could write, and conservatives simply don't agree with it. I think the fact that leaders from higher education, organized labor, Fortune 500 companies and the military all went to bat in favor of the diversity interest speaks volumes.

The narrow tailoring inquiry is where the opinions differ. The Law School's admissions procedures are sufficiently narrow in their tailoring, writes O'Connor, with school officials looking at each candidate individually and assessing the contribution that candidate could make to the diversity of the class, and by extension the potential contribution to the recognized educational benefits that the university strives to provide. The undergraduate program does not do this, instead automatically giving minority applicants a fixed number of points, regardless of the kind of contribution that the student may bring to the class in terms of diversity.

This is not a meaningless distinction. In practice it will probably require more admissions officers to spend more time reviewing applications. This has a cost that I believe is worthwhile because it both allows affirmative action to continue and forces an administrative procedure more in line with the actual substantive goals of affirmative action. Michael Kinsley makes the illogical argument that, "the court is confused if it thinks that a subjective judgment full of unquantifiable factors is obviously fairer than a straightforward formula." The diversity interest affirmed by the court is not one that can be served by formulas very well, and admissions officers already make subjective decisions about essays, recommendations, artistic or athletic ability, etc.

George Will makes another incorrect point that, "future cases will reveal a court increasingly mired in criteria and categories rooted in a vanished America's problems with a binary, black-and-white understanding of its racial composition." The Court struck down the point system that was based on the binary decision--is someone a minority or not--that troubles Will. The Law School's system of individualized consideration allows full accounting for any kind of diversity that a candidate may bring to the class, a more flexible program that is appropriate given the demographics of the country.

I am more inclined to agree with Lee Bollinger, offering the Washington Post's counterpoint to Will:

"The Michigan undergraduate admissions policy, which the court found flawed, awarded points for race and ethnicity. The only reason for that system was to ensure consistency across many different applications reviewed by many different admissions counselors. Nothing precludes the university from now embracing a non-quantitative method that permits counselors to consider 'race' as one among many factors. And that will be true of every college and university admissions program in the country. It is, therefore, misleading and inaccurate to think of what the Supreme Court has done as a 'split' or 'murky' decision in this area of constitutional law. It is about as clear as constitutional law gets."

In short, the decisions do make coherent sense when examined together and in full. I am disappointed in the media coverage I have seen so far, much of which has been obviously uninformed or patently wrong. Howard Kurtz documents some of yesterday's TV blundering in his media notes column. As someone who has actually studied this stuff, I realize how bad the reporting has been, and this makes me wonder if there is similarly woeful coverage in other areas I know less about.

More on MoveOn

The MoveOn.org virtual primary is currently in progress, with results to be announced on Friday. I mentioned some of the controversy surrounding it in a post this morning. The Globe article's specific charges are not addressed on their site, but there is a response to the "Gephardt Flap" here, as well as an FAQ section defending the decision to send out emails earlier from three campaigns only--Dean, Kerry and Kucinich--that the MoveOn membership was most interested in. Check out the candidate letters to MoveOn as well (same page as the FAQ link), which include links to campaign web sites, email list sign-ups, etc.

John Kerry uses his entire letter to the MoveOn membership to plug his petition opposing right-wing judges and threatening to filibuster. I mentioned his filibuster threat on Friday when he announced it, and today we get the news that the Rules Committee in the Senate approved a resolution to prevent filibusters of judicial nominees, with no Democrats in attendance at the meeting. It will be interesting to see how the Dems fight this if it comes up on the floor. As if the stakes were not high enough to make this a brutal battle already, conservatives enraged about the affirmative action decision are redoubling efforts to put opponents of Democratic priorities on the bench.

Draft News

ESPN.com is now reporting that the Sonics are trying to move up to number 4 to pick Chris Bosh, who apparently has risen a lot lately. All I know is he's very thin (reminds me of Jared Jeffries) and played one year at Georgia Tech. I don't believe he has the strength to bang with NBA big men yet, but I could be wrong on this.

Speaking of ESPN, they have a special episode of "The Life" tonight at 8 featuring LeBron James. It should be interesting to see how crazy the guy's life is.

I'm going outside to take advantage of a rare nice day in Massachusetts. Will check in later with more posts...

Fed Rate Cut

The Fed will make the official announcement of an interest rate cut tomorrow. At least that is what everyone has been reporting, and the odds of the Fed not cutting after the signals it's given are very low. But in the time since this has become the accepted version of what will happen, many in the press have started to second guess the rate cut (while more relevant analyses debate the wisdom of a 0.25 versus 0.5 percent cut).

A New York Times editorial today advocates strong consideration of no change in rates: "This might be a time for Mr. Greenspan to stand pat, even if it means disappointing stock traders for a day or two." They base the argument on the evidence that deflation now looks unlikely. Daniel Gross writes in Slate of another worry--a possible increase in short-term borrowing costs for companies that may result from extremely low money-market returns affecting the commercial paper market. The Wall Street Journal added in yesterday's edition that the ref="http://online.wsj.com/article/0,,SB105611429520383400,00.html?mod=todays%5Fus%5Fmoneyfront%5Fhs">"Fed's Rate Decision Could Pose Threat to Recovery in Europe." Here's the thesis:

"The big concern for Europeans is that if the Fed cuts rates, the gap between U.S. and European interest-rate levels will increase, further weakening the dollar and strengthening the euro, which makes European exports more expensive on international markets. In that case, the effect of a stronger euro could overwhelm the short-term boost a recovering U.S. economy -- and rallying Wall Street -- could offer Europe. Already, analysts say, European stocks look like a risky bet; their riskiness likely will increase in the months ahead if the Fed cuts rates."

Larry Kudlow makes the case for a cut of 50 basis points on National Review Online:

"For nearly three years the Fed has erred on the side of deflation. Now they must err on the side of reflation. The 50-basis-point rate cut last November was a decent beginning, but in the context of a deflationary slump worldwide the Fed cannot afford to take any chances. A revived stock market is signalling that a better economy is ahead. But we've had disappointments before, and that is why the central bank should take out an insurance policy of additional ease."

This basically comes to the opposite conclusion as the NYT, seeing deflation as more of a threat. And rather than putting Europe in a bind, as WSJ warns, Kudlow sees the cut as a way for the US to lead global monetary policy:

"By the way, a strongly accommodative Fed policy that keeps the American economy flush with cash will force foreign money masters--like those in western Europe and Japan--to do the same. Otherwise the U.S. dollar will keep floating downward, putting foreigners at a big disadvantage. The Fed has a global responsibility to lead on reflationary money expansion. Then the international maestros will follow."

Meanwhile, Bruce Bartlett of NRO argues that the lag between the rate cut and seeing the effect makes him cautious. He also raises the relevant point that the Fed may not want to ease any more after this for fear of being accused of aiding Bush's re-election bid (in fact they may not want to tighten either, he claims, hoping to make monetary policy an non-issue in the 17 months ahead).

I'm not sure if the Fed needs to totally shut down the option of a further rate change so far out from November '04, but I agree with the essence of Bartlett's case. The lag is a real issue, and if the economy is starting to recover now, as many economists are claiming, this is exactly the wrong time for a monetary stimulus. Why not cut 25 basis points, and if the economy continues to falter cut 25 more? At least we are left with some wiggle room if the smaller cut prevails. If we cut 50 now and that doesn't work, then what? The rate would be a Japan-like 0.75 percent.

And speaking of Japan, Kudlow is incorrect, I believe, to think that a US cut can simply force the hand of other countries. As has been well documented, Japan, a country Kudlow mentions, has rates so low that cutting them more is problematic. Europe's monetary policy is a complicated beast too.

In light of the CPI report last week, the deflation fears should subside to the point where the 0.25 percent cut is sufficient at present.

Polls (and more Dean)

I saw a poll on CNN TV yesterday (which I can't find online)that had Lieberman leading a national poll of Democrats and Gephardt second. Dean was way down at 6 percent, below even Al Sharpton's 7 percent. Bush easily defeated an unnamed Democratic nominee.

I don't know how much stock to put in these national polls at this stage, especially with so many undecided voters. Maybe looking at numbers in Iowa and New Hampshire is more significant because winning there could generate momentum for a candidate that could lead to big changes in media attention and the perception of the candidate's chances, which in turn may turn around poll numbers. The Boston Globe reports on a new poll from New Hampshire, which gives Kerry a 9 point lead over Dean.

Since my last post on Dean was obscenely long, I'll add a link here to Joe Klein's Time article on the candidate. I find Klein's assertion Dean knows little about issues and is opportunistic on choosing stances interesting (judge for yourself here), as well as the characterization of his supporters and his chances at the nomination (how can Klein list Leiberman, who leads national polls, in the middle tier of Democartic candidates?).

Also interesting, continuing on the theme of Dean backlash, is the allegation in today's Boston Globe that the MoveOn.org primary is unfairly slanted toward Dean. The charge is based on someone from MoveOn working as a consultant for Dean and the suspicious timing of the MoveOn primary right after Dean makes his formal announcement. I will check to see if MoveOn.org has any response to this allegation. By the way, don't forget to vote in the MoveOn primary (you had to register by midnight last night to be eligible, though all members are eligible automatically). Another interesting issue raised by the Globe article is whether Republicans might try to influence the outcome.

Dean Backlash?

I am sensing a mild Dean backlash in some media reports these last few days, perhaps a sign that people are now realizing he has a chance to win the nomination. I know he has been attacked previously as unelectable by other candidates and the DLC, but now some in the mainstream media are making similarly damaging statements.

The Washington Post has a good article on Dean's formal announcement yesterday, summarizing what happened at the event in Burlington as well as the schools of thought on Dean and where he stands in the polls and fundraising. The Post's Sunday magazine, however, had mocked this late "announcement"--coming after months of campaigning--as "Duh News" in a headline. Personally I think it's a rather smart ploy to get more media coverage. Maybe the Post is voicing the disgust of the press at being manipulated like this, though I'm sure the Dean people welcome the coverage to get the candidate's name out (unfortunately for them, the announcement ended up being overshadowed by other big news made at the Supreme Court yesterday).

The Wall Street Journal, not surprisingly, argues on the editorial page today that Dean's appeal with Democrats is based on anger at Bush and little else. The key paragraphs:

"In all of this Mr. Dean is touching something deep in the current Democratic psyche. The polls all show that while most Americans like Mr. Bush and approve of his performance, a large core of Democrats loathe him and despise his policies. Without control of the White House or any part of Congress for the first time in 50 years, they are increasingly frustrated and angry. Their mood matches that of the liberal pundit class, whose bile seeps through nearly every column. They're mad as hell and they're not going to take it anymore. Mr. Dean is doing well because he's as mad as they are.

"Readers of these columns won't be surprised to learn that we doubt this is a winning platform. Americans have come to like and trust Mr. Bush, and Democrats won't prevail in 2004 by asking, as Bob Dole did in 1996, 'Where's the outrage?' There's a debate to be made on GOP policies, but anger is not an agenda, especially in a nation as inherently optimistic as America. The danger for the Democrats in 2004 is that they will indulge their outraged inner liberal rather than compete for the political center."

Last night on the "O'Reilly Factor", O'Reilly and Newt Gingrich were practically salivating at the possibility of a Dean nomination. Many Republicans seem to believe Dean is too far from the center to be any threat. I caught a piece on ABC News last night that also focused on this theme, including a quote from a young volunteer that was basically, "If we're going to lose badly like in 1984, why not lose with someone we're in love with?"

Is Howard Dean really the Ralph Nader of the '04 election, siphoning off the liberal vote to make the centrist Democrats, who have a better chance of winning in November, weaker? (Brief aside: what was up with the big Nader sign behind Dean during the announcement speech yesterday? Watching the Dean people try to stick their signs in front of it as the Green people moved around was amusing, though it distracted from my watching of the speech) Bill Saletan's Slate column from yesterday dispels the notion that Dean is not a centrist (a point the Post makes as well). Incidentally, the title on the article, "Howard Dean, Left-Wing Impostor", sounds somewhat sinister, but the point is valid, I think. As evidence, Saletan links to transcripts of Dean's Meet the Press appearance and his remarks at the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition conference this weekend.

I think that the real reason for the momentum behind Dean is that he has been the best candidate so far at energizing people and offering a coherent message that critiques the president. He just seems to have something to his candidacy, which I can't really say for what I've seen from Lieberman or Kerry thus far. I think Democrats want to win badly, and many sense that the "Bush lite" approach of 2002 will lead to failure.

Admittedly, Dean's Meet the Press performance was poor. I mistakenly wrote on Friday that he had cancelled the appearance due to his family issues over the weekend, and maybe he should have because he did not seem on top of his game. Of course, anyone would look better delivering his stump speech than being interrogated by Tim Russert, but Dean could have done better than this. Nea Pollack offers a humorous take on the interview (I found this link via Oliver Willis). I was discouraged enough by the interview to forget about attending any Dean announcement events yesterday. The announcement speech, which I watched on C-SPAN I felt was good but not great. Dean is still tops in my mind for the moment, but I want to hear more from John Edwards before I make a commitment to a candidate.

MoveOn.org Primary

MoveOn.org is having a virtual primary among the Democratic candidates for president. If you are a Democrat, follow the link to their site to register for the primary. This is an exciting new way for Internet users to have a major impact on the race, because MoveOn.org has a lot of clout, and winning its endorsement would be a big help for any of the candidates. Check out the rest of the site if you're so inclined--it has many opportunities for left-leaning individuals to get involved.

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